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HOOPOE (Heb. דּוּכִיפַת; AV "lapwing"), bird included in the Pentateuch among the unclean birds (Lev. 11:19; Deut. 14:18). The hoopoe was confused by Karaites with the chicken, for which reason they prohibited the eating of the latter (see Ibn Ezra on Lev. 11:19), even though the two are in fact distinguished from each other by many characteristics. Because of its crest, which is no more than an erectile tuft of feathers, the hoopoe is called "the wild cock" in the Talmud (Git. 68b). Smaller than a dove, it feeds on insects, and is distinguished by its beautifully colored plumage. Its flesh exudes an offensive smell which is particularly strong near its nest and repels anyone trying to approach it. This perhaps was the reason for certain legends associated with it, such as that it guards treasures in its nest, and was entrusted with transporting the shamir, the miraculous worm that split the stones for the Temple, the use of an iron tool for the purpose having been prohibited (Deut. 27:5; Ḥul. 63a).


F.S. Bodenheimer, Animal and Man in Bible Lands (1960), 55–56; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 90.

[Jehuda Feliks]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.